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MURRAY — The president of the Utah Education Association, the state's largest teachers' union, said the state and the country need to invest in the hard work to address school shootings.
"I just can't believe that we're here again," said UEA president Heidi Matthews. "I think about every person who works in a school today."
Matthews said she is struggling to comprehend what happened Tuesday at the elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
"Nineteen children and two educators are no longer here, and that's wrong, and it's preventable, and we have to grapple with that," she said.
Matthews has been UEA president for six years and an educator for three decades. She can't believe we are dealing with the aftermath of another U.S. school shooting.
"We cannot accept this as the world that we live in," she said. "We can't have another day after. We can't send that message that this pattern of massacre, followed by grief, followed by calls to action, followed by nothing."
Matthews was part of the Utah Safe Schools Commission formed after the 2018 Valentine's Day school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead. The nonpartisan committee promised policy recommendations that lawmakers could act upon.
"While we made some great recommendations, the ones that became the priority recommendations really had to do with those things that were easiest to solve," she said.
Matthews said that while the commission did impact certain areas of school safety, more work needs to be done to address mental health problems and access to guns.
This is not a school issue. This is an issue of our society, and we must make the investments in the root causes.
–Heidi Matthews, UEA president
"This is not a school issue," Matthews said. "This is an issue of our society, and we must make the investments in the root causes."
She believes school shootings are complex problems that need complex answers and she hopes that Utah and the rest of the country are willing to find solutions and not let the momentum for change fade away.
"Not just respond to these events but get ahead of them," Matthews added.